37 signals are one of my favourite companies. We've used Basecamp for a while, and I like their products, but it's the way they run the company that has always resonated with me.
So this interview with their lead dev was fascinating and contains some business practices that I've adopted (either knowingly or unwittingly) over the years.
Here are some:
- work from home on Friday. I take my kids to school, have a coffee with my wife and then dive in to my emails. 37 Signals go further. In the summer the office closes on Fridays.
- small is beautiful. A friend of mine started a web agency and, for some reason, he thought employing 60 people would be good. So he did. Then it went badly wrong, and 60 people lost their jobs. More people also means more personnel issues, bigger overheads and more management tiers.
- niche thyself (borrowed from Guy Kawasaki). If you're going to be small, find a niche and become the best. As a generalist you have very little ground to defend in any competitive situation.
- enjoy your work. I blogged on this before, but if you don't feel what you do matters, you won't do it well.
- employ smart people. When 37 Signals didn't like the available tools for building websites, they wrote their own. That's now Ruby on Rails. We had no code to convert conventional 3D models to XAML, so we wrote some convertors and built Turning the Pages.
- get code out the door. Then iterate.
- trust your employees. The 18 employees at 37 Signals are spread over 3 countries. The management (such as it is) trusts the people - they're in it together.
If you work for someone else, you might be sighing wistfully and bemoaning the culture you've inherited. If you control the culture however, then you can change it.